Gen X of Kathak
Dance is a field that needs total dedication and determination and I am sure you will agree with me if I say that this commitment lasts a lifetime. It takes years for a raw diamond to be cut, crafted and then it slowly starts to shine and in due course of time starts to spread its radiance. One such rising star or should I say the generation next dancer who has started to shine as bright as a diamond is Singapore-based Kathak dancer Avinav Mukharji.
Though Avinav is an Indian from Delhi but is, at present, living in Singapore and heads the Kathak department at Apsaras Arts Dance Institute, one of the leading performing arts institute based in Singapore. But before he started to impart this knowledge of Kathak to the Singaporeans, he was teaching dance in India at The Indian School of Music and also at HU Music Academy. Not just that but that this highly talented young man was the principal dancer in the repertory of Kathak Kendra, National Institute of Kathak, New Delhi and also danced for a long time in the repertory AV Dance Company Kathak Resonance, under exponents Abhimanyu Lal and Vidha Lal.
Avinav has had an extensive training in Kathak under the tutelage of Sangeet Natak Academy awardee Geetanjali Lal for 14 long years. He is also a graded Doordarshan artiste and his talent has been recognised through various scholarships from CCRT, Sahitya Kala Parishad and Kathak Kendra. This just proves how superbly gifted this man is.
With his sheer passion and using the strength of his training, he has performed extensively nationally and internationally. He has also had the opportunity to collaborate and work with renowned artistes and gurus from all over world such as Caracalla from Caracalla Dance Company, Beirut; Fernando Aguilera (IFBC) from Russia; Subhash Dhunoochand, renowned percussionist from Reunion Island; Sharon Lowen; Vaswati Mishra; Shama Bhate; Reela Hota and many more such creative people.
His dance is not only bound to just teaching and performing but he also believes young talent like him needs good exposure. He was fortunate to get scholarships for his art and due to which he could impressively develop his dancing skills along with that he was also lucky to get great platform to perform so that he could showcase his talent to the world at large. But he understands that every dancer is not blessed like him. Keeping this in mind, Avinav started a dance unit Chatushra’ where he gives platform to young upcoming artistes of India to perform along with his group in various national and international level shows and events.
If you think that this man with a heart of gold is only trained in dance then let me bring to your notice that this dashing dancer has received theatre training from National School of Drama, Delhi’s Theatre-In-Education wing, a school of legendary Bollywood and theatre actors of India. He has also been associated with numerous reputed theatre companies such as Cineaste, People Theatre Group, Theatre-In Motion etc. He was fortunate at this very young age when he was called by radio station ‘94.3 My FM’ to conduct a series of street plays on issues such as parenting and peer pressure. Such is the understanding and maturity of this youth that he knows exactly how to take up social issues and mix it beautifully with his first love, Kathak.
If heading the Kathak branch at Apsaras Arts Dance Institute, Singapore was not enough this capable man also works as a teacher, mentor and choreographer for charitable organisations such as Tapaswini Navasadhana, Samuel Ngo Foundation, Sarvam Foundation, Sajag Foundation to name a few and works tirelessly to create annual fund raising productions for them.
I also want to share with you about the various awards Avinav has been honoured with. Some of them include Natya Mayoora by Nrithyathi Kalakshetram and BHEL Bhillai; Nritya Jyoti Samman by Naveen Kalakaar, Odisha; Nartakan Samman by Debnrutyam Studio, Odisha and more. Not just awards and allures in dance but this handsome dancer has also won the title of Mr Delhi in 2009.
This year he gave the most talked about performance, at Pravasi Bharti Divas, for ASEAN INDIA meet at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. He was also praised for this skills at many other international platform such as The Festival of India in Denmark, organised by the Ministry Of Culture, at India’s Republic Day Celebration in Morocco, organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Baalbeik International Festival, in Lebanon organised by Caracalla Dance Theatre, Diwali Fiesta in Reunion Island organized by the Government of France and also at Nartakah Utsav – An all India Male Classical Dance Festival organised by Debnrutyam Studio in Odisha. His chakkars (Kathak spins) and Tukdas impressed international delegates at the London Olympics and also at the Summit of South Asian Conference, organised by the National Science Academy.
Super-impressed with this rising dancing star of India, I picked up my phone and had a nice chat with him, questioning him about his vision as a dancer and as a teacher, and this is what this articulate dancer had to say-
What difference do you find in students in India and other parts of the world?
Since Indians living outside India are away from the culture and traditions, they miss their roots. Hence, they are more keen to learn Indian art forms and traits. What I find in non-Indians in other countries is that they are more disciplined, true, sincere and immensely dedicated to what they are learning.
Which has been your most loved show till date?
My first solo performance, Samvaad, in Singapore has been most loved till now. I got standing ovation and people showered me with unconditional love and respect. I still get compliments for that show and people who attended still remind me of how much they liked it.
Now that you are in Singapore, what are your plans?
I am working on two plans simultaneously, one is to reach out and spread Kathak to as many people as possible in Singapore and world, second is that I as an individual and artist enrich myself with the different culture, thought process, visions and grow my art form along with expanding my horizons.
You are the rising dancing star of India. What advice you have for young dancers today?
Well, we call art forms as extra-curricular activities. It’s really painful to see that dance is not the main curriculum in school and colleges. It should not be taken up as a hobby, like how we study any other subjects, dance is also a subject that needs to be mastered upon. Parents need to understand that process is not instant, it has never been. Today the most successful dancers in the world be it Padma Vibhushan Pt Birju Maharaj or Sir Benjamin Millepied they have all given their whole life to dance. As a teacher and art ambassador I would never willingly want to teach someone who takes up dance as a hobby, but to someone who thinks it can be full-fledged career.
Indian classical dance is a field which is mostly dominated by women, but it is refreshing to see a person like Avinav who is endlessly working towards his goals, travelling the world and learning and imparting his sea of knowledge. Today with this story I would like wish the rising star of Kathak good luck for his future and I hope and pray that he takes our dancing tradition and culture world over.
Sandip Soparrkar is a World Book Record holder, a well known Ballroom dancer and a Bollywood choreographer who has been honoured with two National Excellence awards and one National Achievement Award by the Govt of India. He can be contacted on [email protected]